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Create a bird sanctuary and provide food for our Illinois birds when disposing of Christmas trees. Finding a shelter for birds may be difficult and an evergreen tree perched in the backyard may be welcome. Place tree out of the path of the wind for better protection from the cold

If you are like me, then there wasn’t a substitute this year for a real holiday tree with its deep green needles and evergreen aroma. However, the tree is starting to lose its needles, curling at the ends and ready to be evicted from the living room. There are several options for me when disposing of my celebrated Fraser fir.

Mulch: When chipped, holiday trees are biodegradable and will be a welcome winter scarf for your trees and shrubs.

Cut into pieces: Last holiday, I cut the boughs into pieces and stacked and fashioned them into a temporary insect hotel. I created a safe haven for the crawlies and critters to fend off the rest of the winter.

Place in the backyard: Create a bird sanctuary and provide food for our Illinois birds. Finding shelter may be difficult and an evergreen tree perched in the backyard may be welcome. Place tree out of the path of the wind for better protection from the cold. As winter hits, birds change their food source from mostly insects to berries or seeds. Horticulture educator Rhoda Feree uses strung popcorn, pine cones smeared with peanut butter and sunflower seeds, strung cranberries, apple rings, and orange slices on a holiday tree anchored to a fence post.

Take advice from the Ecology Action Center: Bloomington and Normal residents enrolled in waste collection programs may dispose of their holiday trees by placing them at the curb for pickup. Be sure to remove all decorations as the trees will be chipped. Call your local municipality if you live outside of Bloomington or Normal. If you live in an apartment, you can take trees to recycling centers or local tree companies. Normal recycling centers grind trees into mulch and give it free to residents during the year.

Donate to a local water source: Holiday trees can be used to stabilize river and lake shorelines or can be sunk to the bottom of fish ponds to provide habitat for fish.

Compost: For composters, shredded holiday trees add a dash of nitrogen to the mix. If you don’t have a chipper this may be an issue. Considering that renting these machines is expensive unless you have several trees to chip, dropping off or having the tree picked up may be the best option.

Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.

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